The role of a CRM tool is to serve as a centralized system for organizing, automating, and synchronizing all of a business’s customer-facing activities, including sales, marketing, customer service, and support.
Let’s dig deeper into the specific functions of a CRM tool and how to choose the right one for your business.
What Is CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management. CRM software, therefore, is a digital platform for tracking and managing the full range of information and interactions with your current and prospective customers.
There are three main classifications of information maintained by customer relationship management systems:
- Customer Information: The basic demographic makeup of consumers and clients. Customer information includes everything from names, addresses, and emails to ages, geographic locations, and even an individual’s likes and interests shared publicly on social media, which you can funnel into tailored customer profiles within a CRM system.
- Transaction Information: A customer’s or group of customers’ sales history. Transaction information covers things like past purchases, online shopping cart history, cart abandonment rates, website visits, and unique product or service page visits. Transaction information helps you identify how, when, and where customers are going to purchase your products or services, as well as which goods appeal most to them.
- Marketing Campaign Information: Your sales campaign and marketing metrics. Integrated with customer and transaction information, your CRM software can help you create, employ and maintain more strategic digital marketing campaigns. You learn where to deploy online ads and promotions exactly where they’ll draw the most traffic, nurture the most leads and ultimately create the most sales.
“Relationship” is the keyword when it comes to CRM. At its core, successful CRM is a digital tool helping businesses better connect and serve real people in real time. The best CRM systems do this by harmonizing much of the sales and customer data businesses already use, just in disparate or hard-to-manage places. Today’s CRM software synthesizes this data in one place, maps client or sales trends, and lets you identify fresh ways to apply consumer knowledge for a brighter sales future.
In other words, CRM systems help you know your current and potential customers — then better serve them.
Think of CRM as your company’s own personal research assistant. Only this research assistant is:
- Online, typically housed in the cloud so employees can access insights anytime, from anywhere
- Multifaceted, able to categorize and generate reports on numerous topics and data fields for dozens of business applications
- Instantly accessible and shareable, on desktops, laptops, and employee smartphones
- Synchronized for all departments, bringing the same data to teams and constituents in a few clicks
In seconds, CRM systems reveal end-to-end information about real and potential customers’ demographics, likes, tastes, and behaviors. That information can be harnessed to create, initiate and nurture more compelling brand messages to target audiences — then keep them captivated across time.
What Does a CRM System Do?
Customer relationship management software centers on helping businesses wield real information and build better, value-adding relationships with their customers. CRM software houses all that information so you can make hyper-informed, data-backed marketing and sales decisions.
Consider the three main CRM data categories described earlier — customer, transaction, and marketing campaign information. Those three categories provide the outline of what CRM systems can do for businesses — the information they streamline, the tasks they simplify, the money they save, and the solutions they illuminate:
1. Customer Information
Customer information makes up the building blocks for unique demographic profiles and personalized interactions with target groups. Businesses with the most quality customer data leverage a competitive advantage. Because of their CRM software, they know who their target customers are, and they have an accurate picture of that target customer’s lifestyle. Companies with this kind of consumer clarity can then better speak to and connect with that lifestyle, positioning their products and services to speak directly to it.
CRMs collect consumer information such as:
- Names, to personalize messages
- Ages, to code-shift materials and relay relevant products or services
- Income, if possible
- Geographic region, using geo-tags to maximize campaign reach
- Contact information, namely email and mailing address, phone numbers
- Tech literacy, to match your customer support channels and branded messages with the medium a customer is most comfortable with
- Birthdays, to send special deals and promotions
- Preferred mode of contact, such as print, email, and text messages
- Consumer likes, hobbies and interests to understand what makes someone tick
- Means of acquirement or how the customer found your business. Common examples today include organic internet searches, paid internet searches, social media, in-store visits and industry events.
2. Transaction Information
A customer’s transaction history is the second data point CRM systems enhance for your growth.
Transactions refer to any time an individual has a product or service-related contact with your business. Typically captured at a point of purchase, a CRM system automatically keeps track of all sales touchpoints. Organizations can use this information to build more strategic customer segments or profiles, which then serve as the backbone for improved sales funnels and overall marketing plans.
Transaction information includes:
- Products or services purchased
- Date and time of purchase(s)
- Coupons, promotions or discounts used during the purchase(s)
- Value of the purchase(s)
- Payment method, whether it was cash, credit card, debit card, PayPal or bank account
- History of payment methods
- Overall sales or service trends
- Lifetime value of the customer
3. Marketing Campaign Information
Last but never least, CRM systems allow organizations to craft their most compelling digital marketing campaigns, therefore creating an optimal customer experience.
This isn’t industry hype talking, either. Backed by quantitative demographic and transaction insights, CRM software reveals previously elusive consumer patterns while assigning numbers to hard-to-track metrics. Those metrics, in return, become like a lighthouse, drawing target audiences to your brand. You now know where to place your ads, who to target, what language to use, when to launch messages, and many more key marketing details.
Marketing campaign information can use monetary or non-monetary metrics. Together with the other two categories, they round out the services a CRM system provides:
- Website traffic, both organic and paid
- Page visits and bounce rates to determine your most popular website pages — plus their traffic sources and drivers
- Social media engagement, from likes and shares to comments and ad clicks
- Sales emails opened
- Sales email conversion rates
- Overall sales funnel success and lag points
- Customer rankings and reviews left on websites, social media profiles and third-party sites
- Customer service incidents
- Customer survey results
- Return on investment (ROI) on marketing campaigns and objectives
Benefits of Using CRM Software
Research and consulting powerhouse Gartner predicts that CRM software will make up the single largest spending allocation in enterprise software by 2021. That’s a huge feat considering the range of project management, communications, enterprise resource planning (ERP), HR, finance, accounting, and marketing business software available — and an even larger indicator of the mounting importance of keen customer relationships.
The benefits of adopting a customer relationship management system go beyond remaining with the business times, though. Consider the operations unlocked thanks to this single piece of software — operations that extend beyond the sales teams.
1. Brings You Big Data — With a Fraction of the Work
Gone are the days of dozens of data-dense spreadsheets sprinkled across departments and managed by siloed stakeholders. CRM software creates a single, central repository for org-wide insights. In other words, everyone has access to one portal with one harmonized set of metrics at their fingertips.
Additionally, CRM simplifies the often complicated nature of applying big data. Over half of the businesses surveyed in a 2017 global data report said they struggle to translate data into reality, moving metrics off the screen and into daily sales practices. Such actionable consumer data is at the heart of CRM software.
2. Simplifies Lead Nurturing
Managing lead funnels is one of the primary functions of your marketing operations — but also a time-consuming and cumbersome one. CRM systems help you sort the most promising leads from those requiring additional pre-sale touchpoints, driving more tactical lead volumes with less oversight and resources.
Sales representatives can prioritize their efforts accordingly. CRM lends keener visibility into a customer’s place in the overall sales funnel, allowing you to interact with all consumer or client profiles appropriately.
3. Initiates Better Sales Forecasting
CRM takes sales benchmarks from abstract goals to actionable quotas. Software data fields allow you and your teams to track sales patterns and sale team performances, maximizing tasks and processes that are working and tinkering with those that aren’t. Sales and marketing efforts become grounded in data-based predictions, giving you a better chance of accurately navigating tomorrow’s sales landscapes without misallocating resources.
4. Boosts Customer Service Offerings
CRM systems let you learn the communication preferences of your customers. When people interact with your business using a medium they’re comfortable with — and that they’ve chosen — they’re more likely to view your brand positively. New, innovative modes of customer service have been born out of such CRM insights.
Companies today employ more customer service support channels than ever, in large part thanks to the research gleaned directly from their customer and transaction information metrics:
- Online help “desks,” rather than the traditional voice consultations
- Real-time chat services, with user-friendly pop-up chat boxes deployed on your website
- Texting support, particularly popular with Gen Y and Millennials
- Social media conversations, where clients can direct message your company’s profile just as they would a friend
5. Automates Data Entry and Report Generation
A key benefit behind CRM software is its custom inputs. Your business programs the exact settings and customer information you want the software to keep track of, plus where those information workflows go. The software takes care of the rest. Employees are freed from yesterday’s manual data entry to focus on the value-adding, higher-level work they were hired to do.
CRM software can:
- Automatically paginate core databases, forms and reports
- Decrease manual entry errors
- Reduce data duplication, inconsistencies and gaps
- Periodically “clean” outdated data files
6. Close More Deals
CRM software has an ROI averaging $5 for every $1 spent. What could your business achieve if net profits were suddenly five times larger?
CRM’s higher ROIs come down to its lead-nurturing revitalization. The system identifies previously lost or overlooked lead opportunities, then directs the right series of custom marketing materials and relationship-building efforts to nurture the prospect. Lead volumes increase, as does the potential for your team to support and close those new deals without exerting additional resources.
7. Increase Cross-Selling and Up-Sell Opportunities
CRMs give 360-degree visibility into the likes, dislikes, and preferences of your ideal clients. You see what emails they’re opening, what ads they’re clicking, what pages they’re visiting, for how long, and from where. Leverage these insights into cross-selling and up-sell opportunities, artfully remaining top-of-mind in your target market’s busy and choice-filled day.
8. Accomplish More Business Objectives
Whatever your enterprise goals are for the quarter and the year, customer relationship management will help you accomplish them. While CRM systems most directly influence sales and marketing practices, they cause ripple effects in nearly every department.
- Customer support reps can communicate with clients quicker and easier, solving more problems and solidifying a positive customer experience associated with your brand.
- Human-resource departments can track employee sales performance and generate objective performance indicators.
- IT has to monitor fewer systems and software across enterprise networks.
- Finance and accounting hold one-stop access to revenue projections and reports, deal forecasts, sales leads, and consumer or vendor purchase history, making their revenue reporting simpler.
9. Drives Revenue
Businesses traditionally have two ways to increase profits:
- Increase product or service sales
- Decrease expenses and overhead costs
CRM software unlocks solutions for both these tactics. CRM’s improved lead management, sales pipeline, and funnel nurturing generate higher sales volumes, which directly increases sales revenue. Likewise, businesses have less software to purchase, less employee training to manage, and more tasks and workflows automated, saving everyone time and money.
The result? Boosted profits and greener bottom lines — music to your company’s ears.
Who Can Use a CRM System?
Customer relationship management systems are for anyone with customers.
You may sell business-to-business (B2B) if your customers are other companies and industry vendors. Your customers might be the general public if your company is business-to-consumer (B2C). They may be targeted or niche demographics requiring hyper-concentrated marketing initiatives. Whoever your customers are, if you’re selling something to someone — and wish to grow those sales — you need a CRM system.
Retail and e-commerce businesses have traditionally been at the forefront of CRM adoption. Yet the benefits of implementing CRM software aren’t reserved exclusively for these industries. Here are a few other industries that can use these advantages:
1. Industrial Sector
Companies in the industrial sector balance a unique set of vendor workflows, customer and client interactions, and supply chain management. CRM software connects information across the numerous contracts, bids, job sites, warehouses, transportation routes, and service vehicles that are staples in the subcategories of the industrial industry:
These responsibilities meet in a CRM system that gives cost-competitive insights into many industrial operations. Sales or Product personnel can better track turnover, target quotas, and view sales trajectories. Mobile CRM systems and apps make sure deals, sales, and customer-related workflows can be accessed and completed off-site or on the road.
Successful construction operations manage multiple worksites right alongside bidding for tomorrow’s contracts. A CRM for construction companies simplifies many bid procurement, marketing, and contract task-management activities so site managers can re-focus on what they should — completing a safe, compliant, on-time, and on-budget project.
Mobile CRM is particularly helpful in the construction industry. Generate easy-to-read bids and graphic-filled marketing pipeline reports on smartphones or tablets, manage contract documents, and be notified about prospect bids through real-time alerts and sales status updates, all without stepping away from the work zone.
Contracting CRM software simplifies many of the demands faced by these specialty site technicians. From developers and concrete pourers, flooring and fencing contractors to carpenters, landscapers, and electricians, subcontractors save themselves hours of back-office sales and administrative work when using the right CRM system.
CRM software notifies contractors to project and task management status alerts at their fingertips. Contractors can track progress reports across all worksites, send updates to clients remotely, and track which bid types are their most successful — and gain insights into why.
4. SMBs and Large Corporations
Small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) manage many of the same sales and marketing activities as their larger counterparts, yet often with fewer disposable resources. A CRM system does the work of a full-time, multi-tiered, established marketing department at a fraction of the cost — without sacrificing capabilities, reports, and insights.
Large corporations — those with more than 500 employees — look to CRM systems for different reasons. Streamlining their procurement, sales, and marketing data into one piece of software provides a solution to the often complex, often duplicative sales and accounting efforts of siloed marketing funnels. Work is streamlined and information synthesized, with teams turning more collaborative — and productive — as a result.
5. Anyone, Really
The benefits of the CRM process are not industry specific. It bears repeating that customer relationship management is for any business, of any size, in any sector wishing to build stronger, more meaningful — and therefore profitable — relationships with clients.
The Importance of Choosing a CRM for Your Business
Recognizing the importance of customer relationship management is one thing. Acting on that knowledge and picking the right CRM software for your operations is another. How do you know you’re getting a system that’ll streamline your sales process in needed areas, will be easy to adopt, and won’t require complex employee training or extensive process overhaul — and where do you even begin the search?
Any business or enterprise interested in CRM software must first ask themselves the following:
- What part of the sales pipeline do we want to improve? You might be looking for greater sales-stage definition and visibility or organic traffic growth. Maybe you want to automate data inputs and reports or improve revenue-generating activities. Understand what your business’ sales growth areas are, and you’ll narrow your system selection to vet only software primed to deliver.
- What are our growth objectives? Businesses need a CRM that can grow with them, not cause them growing pains. Vet CRM software that can support your dream scenario of clients, projects, or accounts, saving time, money, and headaches down the road when that dream number becomes a reality.
- Who will be using the CRM system? CRM software must be easy to use and readily adoptable across departments. Regardless of the technical understanding demanded by a department or role, CRM software does no good if it’s too complicated to navigate.
Look for CRM software with the following features:
- Scalability: As noted earlier, select a CRM process that can grow with your business over the years. After all, CRM should be increasing your customer base and your revenue, driving that growth. Why select one that can only help you to a certain point?
- User-friendly: Clean interface design, intuitive software features, and short navigation times between applications are the backbones of today’s best CRM systems. A user-friendly CRM system is the surest guarantee your team will adopt it — and you’ll see returns on your investment.
- Actionable reporting: Big data is great. Big data that’s actionable is better. Pick a CRM software with actionable, highly-visual report generation that doesn’t merely throw raw data points at you but relays specific patterns and insights, which your business can translate into action.
- Free demo: Trying a CRM system before buying assures you’re receiving a piece of software your teams will benefit from, one that solves key pipeline pain points and streamlines end-to-end sales tasks.
Pipeline CRM Simplifies Customer Relationship Management
Pipeline CRM gives you everything you need to accelerate sales and deliver seamless customer experiences to new and existing customers. It syncs with your existing tool stack, so you can manage your end-to-end customer relationship pipeline in a central place.
If your business is in need of a CRM solution for its sales pipeline, lead, contact, and sales operations management — or if you’re simply curious about what CRM software might do for you — give us a shout. Our team can provide a custom system demo to take your CRM processes to the next level.